Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 14

. Heads of state and prime ministers of the CIS member countries held a long overdue meeting in Moscow January 19. The Chechen crisis clearly affected Russian preparations for the summit, which turned into a mostly ceremonial affair save for a few issues on which agreement had been reached informally before the meeting. In contrast to established practice, there was no final joint communique and no joint press conference of the participants. Yeltsin’s own post-summit news conference was mainly devoted to events in Chechnya and Dagestan. The Russian president was unanimously reelected chairman of the CIS Council of Heads of State for a six-month term coinciding with the expire of his presidential mandate. Several heads of state declared the gesture was intended to demonstrate support for Yeltsin’s reelection. However, a number of those leaders spoke out against the misuse of the CIS to reconstitute the USSR, with Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko clashing on the issue with Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

No announcement was made concerning Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan joining the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union and a controversial decision on joint measures to guard member countries’ "internal" and "external" borders was deferred indefinitely. The meeting did agree in principle on joint action to combat both terrorism and the recruitment and trafficking of mercenaries within the CIS, but specified no mechanisms to achieve those goals. Draft guidelines (as yet unreported) on conflict prevention and conflict resolution among or within in CIS member countries were also approved. The summit introduced economic sanctions against Abkhazia under the rubric of combating separatism and extended the mandate of Russian-led "peacekeeping" forces in Tajikistan, putting the latter’s government on notice to intensify its search for a political compromise with the opposition. A joint statement by the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova dealt with principles for settling the Transdniester conflict in ways consistent with Moldova’s territorial integrity. Reports of these decisions remained sketchy during the weekend. (18)